Enjoy as I have the recent posts concerning God and the New Atheists (great band name btw), and there is nothing as comical to me as reading atheists argue for the futility of engaging in these arguments, I do think that the ground needs a little clarifying so that these discussions, that I believe have value in the platonic sense, can gain some traction given a few tools to help the language.
The dichotomy between theism and atheism is perhaps a step of generality too far, and leads one to engage in those kinds of circular arguments that both sides find frustrating. So I propose the following terms, in order to help us identify our beliefs, or non-beliefs, in a way that fosters informed discussion.
1. There are at least 2 types of atheists. One I will call the Micro-Atheist, that type of person who approaches the cosmos without the need to ascribe consciousness to things he/she has no evidence to support. The Micro-Atheist is the quietest type since he/she admits that his/her non-belief is simply grounded in not having any first hand experience of such evidence. The second type I will call the Macro-Atheist. This latter type approaches the cosmos with scientific rationality, and supposes that such scientific principles are universal, and given the inability of theists to prove their claims, these atheists propose that there is no divine consciousness directly influencing human affairs. And this is a reasonable assertion, however, it is still an assertion.
2. There are then, at least, 2 types of theists. One I will call the Micro-theist, who might have personal experiences of the type we call spiritual, and/or is not willing to dismiss other accounts of miraculous and/or spiritual encounters. These types remain open to the possibility that some verification of the divine might be possible, but they choose to believe that some conscious force does engage in relation to human beings. The second type is the Macro-theist. This latter type takes it for granted that a divine consciousness is at work in our universe and further proposes that this divine consciousness has a universal message, and chooses to see differences of interpretation as a result of human weakness. Unlike the Micro-theist, that can align him/herself with reason, given the openness of their views, the Macro-theist is explicitly opposed to the supremacy of reason and sees faith as a superior to science.
3. And of course, we have the agnostics. Much like the Micro-theist, there is the Micro-agnostic. He/she is the friend of both camps, open to whatever arises. The Micro-agnostic is a relativist in the extreme, trusting not even his/her own existence. The Micro-agnostic would be considered a mystic if only he/she would stay still. The Macro-agnostic is he/she who uses reason to level the debate, and sees in this abstinence from judgment, the highest expression of scientific enlightenment. The Macro-agnostic takes a position against judgment without proof. The Macro-agnostic, in this way, is an idealist, and does not always fit well within the pragmatism of contemporary science.
My beliefs: Personally, I am a Micro-theist with a Macro-Agnostic bent. I consider the reports from countless people, both intelligent and simple, of outside consciousness as a valid set of scientific phenomena, without adequate explanation. There are theories of course, one being that people have used their imaginations to create an ‘other’ to calm the anxiety caused by uncertainty. But this theory demands proof, as do all theories, and I feel the debate is an important one to have. Some incredibly intelligent people have been religious, and so I do not accept that the spiritual personality is one grounded in a kind of weakness. In fact, I suspect that some people are simply more sensitive to the vastness of existence and the ways in which it might manifest itself.
These debates are often heated precisely because the participants are unaware of these subtle differences. When the Macro-atheists are engaged in an argument about the dangers of religion with the Macro-theists, it is tempting for the Micro-atheists and Micro-theists to step in, since we feel, and we both have reason to feel, that we are being misrepresented. The upscaling effect is the result of universalizing something that cannot yet be proven to be universal. Our experiences on this planet are a set of sense data that we have yet to fully grasp. Science is the best tool for moving forward in our search for testable theories. Yet, spirituality does seem to have a relationship with individual thriving. These two things are not so divergent in my mind.
But I do confess a kind of pleasure in baiting atheists…so, see if you like these new terms, and see if they help you distinguish your views a bit more efficiently, and add to the joys of platonic tangential approach to the forms out of which our universe unfolds. here are a few videos i find somehow relevant to these matters.